The whole social distancing thing hasn’t been great for salespeople or their clients. But the distancing started long before the global pandemic of 2020. It started when we began to expect that the tools would somehow replace face-to-face human interactions. The more important the outcome, the less transactional you should be in sales.
The more important your client believes the outcome to be, the less transactional they will want you to be. When these things are true, you must close the distance.
An email is something less than a conversation. While it is amazing for sending information, it is inadequate for a conversation. When you use email to try to sell, you are leaving too much distance between you and your prospective client. You should not use a medium like an email because it is more comfortable or convenient for you, especially when it either creates distance or reminds your client that there is already a huge distance between you.
Last week, a “challenger” sent me an email to tell me that seventy-percent of my sales team was failing. He knows no one on my team, and he has never spoken to me. Nor does he know that anyone on my team would have picked up the phone and called one of our prospective clients. You have to be careful in your sales approach; telling someone their baby is ugly without establishing enough trust and rapport can cause you rather serious problems getting positive attention.
Every day, decision-maker’s email inboxes fill up with notes from salespeople pitching for a meeting. The decision-maker doesn’t know any of the salespeople who continually send them the same emails. It creates distance and reinforces that distance instead of closing it. A prospecting sequence or engagement strategy should be built on closing the gap, not maintaining it.
Using the Phone
Some of us are romantic about the telephone. Compared to email, the phone is unbelievably powerful for closing the distance between you and your client. The phone allows you to have a conversation with another person. The way to know you have closed the distance between you and your contact is something you might call “intimacy,” meaning I know you, I understand what’s important to you, and I know why this is true.
When you send an email, can you hear and discern what is important to your contact? The reason the phone reigns supreme when it comes to prospecting is that it allows you to listen to your contact, to hear them, and to understand something more than what they might write in an email.
What makes a good salesperson is less about their ability to talk, a true differentiator in sales. But what is more important is the ability to listen to another person, to acknowledge them, and to show that you care about what’s important to them. Listening and caring closes the distance.
Why Your Client’s Camera Isn’t On
Many of us have been using video conferencing tools long before the global pandemic that brought the technology to the forefront. The tool provides much more than the telephone. Not only can you hear your client, you can see them. Well, sometimes, you can see them.
There are still some people who are uncomfortable on camera, even if that isn’t likely to be true in the future. Some people have their camera off because they are not interested in sharing with you, not overly excited about making any change, and who were dragged to a meeting by someone else in their organization. They are primarily disengaged, not giving you their attention, even when you have their time. Whether you wanted the call to be something more than transactional, that’s what it turns out to be.
When your client’s camera is on, you have closed a good bit of the distance. But depending on the nature of the sale, it may not be enough to produce the desired effect.
You Didn’t Have to Come See Us
I made a trip to see a client that required me to go way out of my way. The client told me that he and his team were comfortable having the conversation over the telephone. I went to see him anyway, knowing that my competition would not, and knowing that it would improve our working relationship, as I would have met his team, seen their facility, and spent time with them. When I arrived, he said, “You didn’t have to go out of your way to see us.”
Your intention should shift from trying to be more efficient to trying to be more effective. You should work to close the distance between you and your contacts, and you should do everything in your power to acquire face to face meetings. Relationship selling is still a part of consultative selling. Boiling selling down to its fundamental essence, you are trying to create a preference to work with you instead of someone else (or a large group of someone else’s).
You have to decide whether or not you believe that people will prefer to work with people who they have never met and who refuse to come and meet with them where they are.
Right now, as you are reading this, some salespeople are walking into their dream client’s office or facility to have a conversation about the company and the better future results they need. While you are distancing, you have competitors who are working to close the gap.
You should hope your competition continues to maintain a distance between them and the clients you are both pursuing while you are working on getting within six feet of them.
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